GuNAY HILAL – ‘A labor accident is never an accident’

‘A labor accident is never an accident’May 13 was one of the darkest days in Turkish history, with reports of a massive disaster at a coal mine in the western district of Soma, Manisa province, claiming hundreds of lives.The death toll was not officially announced until the next day, and officials made conflicting statements, which caused public outrage. It was 157 at the end of the day, according to a mayor, while a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy announced the number to be 20. On Thursday, it was official that a total of 282 bodies had been recovered from the mine. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan was attending a ceremony on Tuesday and did not bother to leave for Soma on that day. Arriving at the disaster scene on Wednesday, ErdoIan offered his condolences to the families of the victims. However, his subsequent remarks were rather controversial, as he suggested that deaths are in the nature of the mining business. Another controversy was that a suggestion for a parliamentary inquiry into mining accidents in Soma had been presented by the opposition only two weeks before and turned out to have been rejected by AK Party deputies. According to Mehmet Y. YIlmaz, who wrote a column titled “A labor accident is never an accident” on Thursday: “What makes my grief even greater is not the extent of the death toll but the fact that this accident was indeed the kind that could have been prevented. When there is a report of such an accident, you must know that actually there is no ‘accident’ present.” Criticizing the AK Party deputies, YIlmaz asked, “Based on what data did they turn down the parliamentary inquiry into the Soma mines?” The columnist also pointed out that Energy Minister Taner YIldIz, who had visited the Soma mine where the accident took place nine months before, declaring it an “example” for safe mining, must resign because continuing as a politician means denying his responsibility. Vatan daily columnist Okay Gnensin wrote a piece on Thursday titled “Lost for words,” referring to the Soma mine tragedy and what followed. “Experiencing such a disaster in this era does not leave room for words. The whole country is crying. We should also cry about being an underdeveloped country that creates so many casualties,” Gnensin wrote. The columnist stated that with the report of the accident, the people of the country immediately learned the statistic that Turkey ranks second in the world for mining accidents. According to Gnensin, this disaster was something to be expected for those in this business, who are aware of the figures. In terms of workplace safety, Turkey is nowhere near countries such as the United Kingdom, France or Germany, where workers’ unions have pursued a long battle to reach high safety standards, Gnensin said.“We are going to hear a lot of technical explanations for the accident in the next few days. We will cry with the people who lost their loved ones. But then we will forget about it. Just like we did with the past tragedies, we will forget it until we are faced with another one,” Gnensin commented. The columnist emphasized that what must be done in order not to experience a similar disaster is obvious: The operator of the mine and its administrators should be arrested immediately and sentenced to long prison terms. The energy minister and the minister of labor must resign right away, as they are at the top of those responsible for the incident, according to the columnist. “This is what countries that have not experienced such a tragedy in years have done in the past,” Gnensin commented.

SOURCE: Today Zaman

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